Savage Strategy #4
Make Your Company Easy to Do Business With,
Oh Yes, We are Easy, I Don't
If you apply Savage Strategy #1 and 2 you are already making it easy, because you have made your employees feel loved and you have driven decisions down. Your customers will feel happiness coming from your employees and will be able to get quick decisions on the spot.
If you apply Savage Strategy #3 you are also on your way to making it easy, because you have elevated the salespeople. Your customers like to deal with a person who is respected and supported by his company.
But there are a few other angles to implementing Savage Strategy #4. The main obstacle for many customers is a series of company rules. These rules develop in a creeping subtle fashion and become part of the company culture. No one questions them, but the customers find you hard to deal with. If your competitor does Savage Strategies, your customer will go away and you will always wonder what went wrong.
One of my clients owns a shoe manufacturing business in El Salvador. Don Carlos started the company 50 years ago at age 25. Today he is 75. His original vision was to put a pair of shoes on the feet of every Salvadoran child. He accomplished that goal.
The company grew rapidly until he had 200 stores in all the Central American countries. Sales grew for 47 years. But in the last three, sales had stagnated. Don Carlos asked me to help him design a new marketing and sales strategy.
You may wonder what a consultant does. Don Carlos ( everyone calls him “Don Carlos”) asked me to visit 30 of his stores and analyze the problem. I stood in each store, notebook in hand, jotting down my observations about sales performance, lighting, displays, location and the other 100 things a marketing professional scrutinizes. Picture yourself with me in San Jose, Costa Rica, watching customers come in and observing their salespeople. One woman walked in with a box under her arms, opened it and pulled out a pair of shoes. The shoes were unscuffed, brand new, still in the box. She was a nice looking, middle-aged woman, and she politely said to the clerk, “My mother gave these to me for my birthday. But they are one size too big. May I exchange these shoes for a smaller size?”
“Yes,” said the clerk. “May I have your receipt?”
The woman was crestfallen. “I don’t have a receipt.”
The clerk was equally crestfallen. “Sorry, but no receipt, no return.”
Company rules: no receipt, no return. The sales clerk could not make the exchange. That same shoe was right there in the store window. It would have been easy to make the trade. But rules are rules. No receipt, no return.
Later, I talked with Don Carlos and gave him 32 Savage Strategies to get him back on track. I got to Strategy #13. (Unlucky customer!) I told him about the woman and the problem she had exchanging shoes. I told him, “Your company is not easy. It should be easy for the customer to make an exchange. You make it hard.” Don Carlos looked at me and shook his head. “That woman was a crook. She stole those shoes and she’s trying to take advantage of us.” I was astonished. I had seen that woman and she did not seem like a thief to me. But I decided not to argue. I said, “OK, let’s say that 5% of the people who want returns are crooks. In fact, let’s say that 20% are crooks. But by refusing to make it easy, you are driving away the 80% who are honest.” He did not see the point. I was unable to convince him. He did not accept Savage Strategy #2 and his sales are still falling.
What if that lady WERE a crook? Who cares? It would not have hurt the business one tiny bit to accept that change.
You may be thinking, “Well, Steve, that is Latin America. Here is the United States companies are not that way. Well, let’s think about that. I used to buy my computers from Dell. They used to be an easy company. I bought five computers from them. I loved my Dell Computers and I loved the Dell Computer Company. When I called, someone immediately answered the phone. “Hello, Mr. Savage, what may we do to help you?”
Then Dell started to get hard. More menus, more time on hold, more hoops to jump through. Six months ago my computer was down and I called. After the Infierno of punching through several menus and being put on hold, I finally got someone. I asked them to send a rep to my house. “We can’t do that until we ask you some questions.” No way. I had endured the endless litany of questions before and was not about to undergo the torture again.
I told them, “Look, I don’t have time to go through your list of 50 questions. Just send someone out here to fix my computer and I’ll pay you.” Dell would not do it. Their corporate rules would not allow them to send anyone until they put me through the anguish of answering a bunch of questions. I just wanted my lousy computer fixed. But Dell wouldn’t do it. And I got annoyed. And I had an affair. I was unfaithful to Dell, my first love. I found a local computer person who builds his own computers and has a wonderful receptionist who always answers the phone with courtesy, promptness and enthusiasm. They always handle my computer needs immediately. This is the kind of business that will win in the first decade of the 21 st century.
Being easy is simply trusting your customers. Sure, some will take advantage of you. But who cares? Let it go. It’s a drop in the bucket. Most people are decent folks. Treat them with respect and trust. They will become your most loyal customers. They love to do business with a company that treats them as human beings.
Analyze your company. Analyze your rules. Is it easy to do business with your company? Is it easy to buy? Easy to exchange? Easy to figure out what your terms are? Easy to reorder? Easy to call? Easy to get in touch with a real person? Make these things easy and promise you that you will make more sales, more often.
Who do you think is the most important person in the company? The president? NO. The receptionist! That is the first voice you hear and it forms your impression of the company. But most companies look at the receptionist as a lowly person. He or she tends to be the lowest paid, most poorly trained person in the company. Recently I called a company and asked for Raymond Anderson. The woman who answered the phone said, “What department does he work for?”
“He is the president of your company.”
“Oh, that must be administration.”
In my business, we always insisted no one could answer the phone unless he or she had spent at least six months with the company. Then they got to answer the phone. And you know what? It was a promotion! It was a prestige position and paid well. The receptionist knew all the people in the company, knew the departments and could answer the phone with intelligence. We insisted that our receptionists be enthusiastic, clear, with good pronunciation and great people skills.
One of the horrible aspects of modern business is the way you get put on hold when you call a company. You know what it’s like. You have to go through the ordeal of touching one for this, two for that and three for something else. Then after touching five or six numbers on the menu, you still have to wait for endless ages before you get a real live person on the phone. Do you like it? No, of course not. But are you doing the same thing to your customers?
The businesses that still have friendly receptionists to answer the phone are going to be the winners in the next decade. People do business with companies that are easy. If you must use automatic answering, at least give them a choice in the first menu to talk to a real person. And have plenty of people so your customers don’t have to wait. I guarantee you will make more sales, more often.
Make it easy for the customer and you will make more sales, more often.
Is your company easy? Think about it. Spy on yourself. Pretend you are a customer and call your company. See how easy it is to get information, to get through to the person you want, to buy something, to return a product or to get technical help. You may be in for a shock.
There are 100 things you can do to apply Savage Strategies to make more sales, more often. But let’s just start with three. Go back to work and start with three simple steps. Apply these Savage Strategies immediately.
- Drive one decision down.
- Go on one sales call.
- Eliminate one rule.
Have the courage to change.
Grandpa died still believing Catholics are going to hell. But Dad was open minded enough to change. He even became friends with a Catholic priest and invited him to his church to address the weekly prayer breakfast.
In the last 4 articles we have examined the 4 Savage strategies to get more sales, more often. There is enough missionary in my blood to make we want to convert you to the Savage Strategies. Go forth, and drink the glass of wine. You may dance. I guarantee you will not go to Hell …and neither will your business.
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